Caregiver’s Diary: An Old Sea Dog

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An Old Sea Dog

I pick up my new boat tomorrow. I took it out on sea trials this week and got acquainted. It’s BIG, ocean-liner big, to me, who’s used to a 22 foot sloop that sailed like a fat Laser. This boat takes a long weekend, and half a township to turn, and when it does, it doesn’t want to stop turning. Fun!

My 88 year old widowed father has followed my adventures with the new boat assiduously. While never a sailor, he’s always had dreams of boats and the sea. In his 70s, he finally gave in to a lifelong urge, and bought a vintage wooden cabin cruiser, a mid-70s Trojan that required more varnishing and maintenance than sailing. It had a temperamental Chrysler Hemi engine with one gear. He took the boat out perhaps 3 times in the 3 years he owned it, finally realizing he was incapable of docking it on his own.

I shouldn’t talk, there’s no way I can handle my new boat on my own. My shipmate, Jamie, of whom I have written here, will always be required in order for us to go anywhere. And one of our first trips is to Niagara, to see dad, but more importantly, for him to see the boat. It’s a traditional ketch-rigged motorsailer, built in Finland, with stout, seaworthy lines. He used to draw boats exactly like it in his fine, precise, spidery hand on restaurant placemats to entertain us as kids. It’s the kind of boat he always wanted, and the kind I always wanted too.

On the phone, he only has one urgent question: “How high are the toilets? I can’t get up off a low toilet without help, you know”. I assure him they’re marine toilets, nice and high on their vacuum pumps. I guess your priorities change when you pass over from just old into very old.

Speaking of which, this whole adventure is predicated on us being able to get him on the boat. Her freeboard is about 4 feet amidships, which is about what most marina walls are, so he should be able to shuffle across easily. If there’s any climbing, either up or down, I’m afraid he’ll have to admire her from ashore.

Before the trip to Niagara, however, comes delivery. I have to bring her to her new home in Toronto, a voyage of 40 nautical miles, or about 6 hours at 7 knots. I’ll have lots of time to learn how to steer her, handle her, and become comfortable enough with her that I don’t emulate my father, skipper of a boat he couldn’t sail.